Feminist movements in evolving contexts: from chilean military regime to a decentralized democracy

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Feminist movements and women groups have linked with the state and the civil society to develop public policies and prompt women into the political sphere as social actors and citizens. The story of Chile is particular in the sense that opposing ideologies have used similar tactics and methods to push for political goals, both during the implementation of the military government and thetransition into democracy. Feminist movements and women groups in Chili can be broadly characterized by their nonpartisanship to political leaders and parties. Though the causes being advocated and fought for can be considered political, such as socioeconomic factors, equality and an end to patriarchy, the mobilization of these women has often been done without explicit political affiliation permittingthem to mobilize as many women and actors for their causes.

Since the 1970s Latin American feminism has fervently invested its efforts in bringing to light the discrimination, inequalities and suffering of women. Equal opportunities and recognition of women, in the domestic and public sphere, now form an integrated part of the public agenda. To ensure equal opportunities are maintained andthese agendas progress, international and national instruments have been put in place to monitor discriminatory practices1. The evolution of these women movements and how they have transformed, for the most part, Latin American recognition of women encompasses four major turning points. First, demographic changes such as greater access to education, later marriages and lower birth rates duringthe end of the twentieth century increased women’s participation in the workforce. This enabled a more diversified view of the women, they were no longer just recognized as spouses and mothers. Second, feminist groups were an ever-growing force behind the struggle for democracy in several countries during the 1970s and 1980s. Third, the UN Decade on Women (1975-1985) served as a support for thesefeminist groups as it “inspired a range of theoretical and practical efforts to advance the socioeconomic participation of women”2. Finally, the transition into democracy and modernization in the increasingly globalized and international climate put the emphasis on diversity and pluralism3.

In Chile, like in most of Latin America, an ideology of anti politics motivated the militarygovernments to condemn partisan politics as a threat to a united national development. Women mobilization adopted a similar discourse when confronting male party leaders. They considered themselves political outsiders and sought to bring a gendered perspective to their version of antipolitics which often united groups on opposing sides of the political spectrum4. Poder Femenino (PF), meaning femininepower in Spanish, a coalition the centre-right was fighting to remove democratically elected President Allende from power and stood in favor of the military regime. Mujeres Por la Vida (MPLV), on the other had, was a centre-left coalition advocating for a transition into democracy created three years before the end of Chile’s military rule in 1986. Though these two groups did not work togetheror simultaneously, PF during the early 1970s and MPLV during the earlier 1980s, they both used “similar discursive strategies to justify their participation in the political arena and to influence political outcomes”5. They were also both mainly constituted by women in a leadership position in political parties. However, in their discourse, these two groups were incredibly different, PF feministagenda did not seek to change the status of women in any real practical terms while MPLV explicitly advocated for the expansion of women’s rights and their demands in the national political agenda. Despite their implications with political parties, they identified themselves as political outsiders and mobilized women as nonpartisans allowing for a mobility across party lines which generally men...
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